Kissing your sister is never fun, the cliche we’ve all heard when we tie a match/game. For Napoli on Tuesday, it was an even worse feeling knowing we tied.
Tuesday night in Belgrade, Serbia Napoli opened up it’s 4th consecutive Champions League appearance against Serbian Superliga winners Red Star Belgrade. The first match for Carlo Ancelotti in Champions League as manager of Napoli. Before the match, we heard the manager make the remark that he had faced Belgrade before in Champions League, once as a player and once as a manager. Both times he won the match as well as the tournament. For Napoli, Champions League seems to be a regular fixture for the club, with their fourth appearance in a row as they continue to make a name for themselves in world soccer.
The night started in electrifying style. Champions League brings all crowds from different parts of the world, as we all know it’s the biggest tournament in the world. Rajko Mitic stadium was a radiant scene, the tifos and the fan support by the home side were spectacular. The Red Star Ultras are well known throughout Europe.
As for the pitch, their was optimism for Napoli. They know they have a tough group, they must get all the points they can in order to move on. For the formation in this match, Ancelotti went with the usual 4-3-3 that we’ve been accustomed to seeing this season. Starting Ospina back in net as we expected. The backline saw Rui-Koulibaly-Albiol-Hysaj. The major difference was in the Middle, as we finally got to see the debut of Fabian Ruiz. A player a lot of Partenopei’s, including myself, were optimistic to see. Ancelotti as well has high expectations for the young Spaniard, which may be the reason why he wanted to save him for the Champions League. Fabian did not disappoint either, as all night he looked crisp and showed great skill as the anchor of the team. Zielinski and Allan continue being great opposites on each side of the midfield Up top Ancelotti went with Insigne-Milik-Callejón. No surprise there.
Napoli, in general, was creating chances all night long pressuring Red Star’s back four as well as the Goalkeeper, Canadian Milan Borjan, who had a great night stopping everything Napoli threw at him. Napoli had 20 shots with 8 of them on target. So many times they were so close to getting a goal but could not get one past Borjan.
Red Star did a fantastic job winning the battles in the midfield, they pressured Napoli all night in this area, making it though for Napoli to get any ball through, and they kept pushing Napoli back and back, giving the back line work all night long. They also did a great job giving minimal space for Insigne and Milik, forcing Callejón to make some magic happen. Overall it was a great game plan by Red Star manager Vladan Milojevic, who was a former defender for Red Star.
Napoli defense did a great job defending again, stifling Red Star as well as getting back into place during transition sets. That’s back to back solid performances for the back four, as well as giving the Colombian David Ospina his first clean sheet of the season.
For Red Star, this result is an ultimate positive, from the amazing scene we saw in Belgrade to their performance on the pitch. Many experts predicted Red Star would not be able to gain a point in this group of death, so being able to do so is huge for their confidence.
For Napoli, it doesn’t get any easier as next up they host the Champions League runner ups from last season, Liverpool. It doesn’t seem like they’ve lost a step as they just had a statement win against European power PSG.
It wasn’t the result Napoli fans were hoping for, but you have to take the positives where you can find them. Champions League is the thoughtest tournament there is, every point is crucial. Napoli has to take each game one by one. Don’t forget who the coach is!!!
FORZA NAPOLI SEMPRE!!!!!!